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21
Jun

Metro: Exodus for PlayStation 4 – Hands-on impressions from E3 2018


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Metro: Exodus promises freedom of choice and a challenge of a scavenging system, but it’s hard to get a good grasp of it from one demo

After several years of silence, Metro: Exodus reemerged from its nuclear bunker and is ready to continue the story originally conceived in the novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky. Its trailers have thus far promised a challenging scavenging and crafting system needed to fuel the game’s combat, but there’s far more to it than that.

I went hands-on with Metro: Exodus at E3 2018 and learned more about the game’s promises of freedom for the player to choose their own path. Rather than offering dialogue trees for good or evil, Metro wants your actions to matter. Are you a peacemaker? An explorer? Or a heartless killer? Sometimes you may want to be one, but the choices before you aren’t always immediately obvious.

See at Amazon

New beginnings

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Metro: Exodus is set two years after Metro: Last Light and 23 years after a massive nuclear war that reduced Russia to a devastated wreck. You play as Artyom, who has joined the Spartan Rangers in their exodus from Moscow aboard a train called the Aurora, hoping to find a place to rebuild somewhere to the east. The story spans a full year of their travels, beginning in a harsh nuclear winter and continuing through each of the four seasons.

I was free to explore a huge area as I liked, with the understanding that some things like textures or collisions may be unfinished.

My demo took place at an encounter called The Bridge, where the titular landmark had collapsed and groups of people (hostile? no?) were out camping on the track. In order to bypass the obstructions, our engineer needed to do some work on the train, so I was sent out into the wilderness to determine if the nearby settlers were friends or foes. But had I not wanted to take that route, I didn’t have to!

The demo I was given was qualified by the presenters was something a bit different: rather than a narrowly-focused and polished demo of a small segment, I was free to explore a huge area as I liked, with the understanding that some things like textures or collisions may be unfinished. Even with the qualifier, the world looked lovely, snowy, and diverse despite the bleak terrain, though I did run into long loading screens and some collision issues as promised. I’m not worried on those fronts, though. Metro is allegedly content complete, leaving the team a whopping eight months to launch to polish, polish, polish.

Into the winter

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I like to do what I’m told, so after my partner Anna yelled at me for ignoring the objective, I turned around and followed her into an area of deserted houses, picking up some crafting materials along the way. Having never played a Metro game, I was pleased to find that combat wasn’t around literally every last corner, though I had to keep my guard up. Metro is just as much about how you choose to interact with those you encounter as it is about fighting off wasteland horrors or those who want to stop you from finishing your objectives, as I’d soon find out.

You can fight your way through a lot in Metro: Exodus, but you can also approach situations from different angles.

After climbing into a small boat (don’t swim in Metro, trust me) and rowing across a small body of water I came to a strange, ramshackle church, where I was told all would be well if I came in peace. I sheathed my weapon in compliance. You can fight your way through a lot in Metro: Exodus, but you can also approach situations from different angles. With my weapon put away, I slowly guided my boat into a bizarre church service where the congregation followed the pastor in decrying technology with loud chants.

As I neared a spot to dock, though, things changed. A little girl came in and yelled at the congregation that they were wrong and that she refused to believe them, then scampered up the stairs. My boat was suddenly locked down between two doors that dropped, and I was forced to disembark and chase the girl up the stairs. I wasn’t fully sure if the congregation had intended to trap me, was mad at the girl, or if I had made a bad choice by following her, but I headed up and encountered the child and her mother, who desperately needed help to escape the weird cult they were in. I was told to make my escape first, but with the compound now hostile, that would prove a challenging task.

Choice or no choice?

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At this point, I felt I had no choice but to fight. Gun combat is solid in Metro, and I was given a few different weapon choices along the way, but if you’re not actively picking up crafting supplies to augment your equipment and create more ammo, you’ll have a bad time…just like I did. I ran out of ammo just as I killed enough enemies to force everyone else to surrender, so I didn’t need to bother with whether or not to kill the remaining enemies, now on their knees and begging for mercy. I eventually found a new boat to escape in and headed out, Anna reassuring me over the radio that she would take care of the girl and her mother.

As I approached the Aurora again, I was waylayed by a huge mutant sea monster bursting up from the depths and trying to capsize my boat. With no ammo left, I thought for sure I was done for, but I was pulled from the water by another comrade and pointed in the direction of the Aurora on land. There, I met the mother and daughter, who were able to give me directions into the city to an engineer who could repair the train, which is about where my demo finally timed out.

Overall

I feel like I barely got a taste of Metro: Exodus, and that my lack of experience with other games in the series may have hurt me a bit. I spent a lot of time just sort of aimlessly trying to understand my objective, which can sometimes just be chalked up to the demo but could also be a result of the game’s density. Looking around the snowy world I was dropped in, I could see multiple major landmarks and several minor ones within a few minutes’ distance, and had I traveled to any of those others instead of the weird church, I may have encountered a different story entirely (while drawing the ire of my boss on the Aurora, probably). I’m curious to learn more about how decision-making and exploration affect things, as they’ll be what make Metro: Exodus stand out rather than its fairly standard, if resource-draining combat.

When can I embark on an exodus, too?

Metro: Exodus launches on February 22, 2019 for PlayStation 4 starting at $59.99.

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Need direction?

Have more questions about Metro: Exodus? Bust out the compass and map and leave a comment; I’ll try to help you out!

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21
Jun

AMC announces Stubs A-List, its new $20 subscription movie pass


Includes IMAX, Dolby Cinema, RealD 3D, Prime and BigD formats.

AMC has announced Stubs A-List, it’s subscription movie service that allows movie lovers to see multiple movies per week for one flat monthly cost. The service, which will cost $19.95 per month, gets you access to the very best of AMC up to 3 times per week, including multiple movies per day and repeat visits to already-seen movies.

You’ll be able to use it at all AMC locations, including the Dine-in and Classic theaters across the U.S. In addition to being able to see the movies, you also get all the benefits of AMC’s Stubs Premiere, which includes VIP service at AMC theaters, no online ticketing fees, and savings on food and beverages while at the theater at no added cost.

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Once you sign up for the service, you can use it right away. There’s no need to wait for a card to arrive; everything is done online and can be accessed right from your phone. You can see movies in the format of your choice, so if you want to go see something in IMAX or RealD 3D, you can without any additional charges. Enrollment for the service beings on June 26, and as soon as you enroll the benefits are immediately available.

The “week” period runs from Friday to Thursday, matching the traditional movie release schedule. If you don’t use your three visits that week, there is no carryover, so it’s a “use it or lose it” type of thing. You can see movies you’ve already seen again if you desire, or watch all new ones. If you don’t have time to make it back to the theater multiple times a day, you can see all three movies the same day, as long as there is a two-hour buffer in between showtimes.

Be sure to visit AMC’s site or use the free AMC Theaters app on iOS or Android to get started and reserve your future seats!

21
Jun

YouTube Premium is Google’s bundle future — and its only great streaming deal


ytmusic-casting-red-24k-magic.jpg?itok=x Audio-only and casting to Google Home are Premium features, but please don’t pay YouTube Music Premium to get them.

Don’t get YouTube Music on its own.

YouTube made several announcements this month, from the announcement of a “brand new” YouTube Music to the evolution of YouTube Red into YouTube Premium. There were many things to get excited about in the new YouTube Music, but one thing made absolutely no sense: the pricing for YouTube Music Premium.

Well, the pricing makes a tiny amount of sense, but only in one way: YouTube Music Premium is here so that you feel better about paying more for the same service millions of subscribers have enjoyed for years.

Confusingly easy: The Google Play Music combo pack

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There’s no point in denying how confusing Google’s subscription offerings for music have been for years now to the average consumer, but up until May of 2018, things were actually pretty easy to sum up:

If you subscribed to one of Google’s music/media apps, you subscribed to all three of them.

If you signed up for Google Play Music back in 2013 when it was called All Access, you paid $7.99/month ($9.99/month is the price today), and you have an unlimited subscription in Google Play Music, YouTube Red, and premium service in YouTube Music. And to early adopters still paying $7.99 today, meaning that you have saved $120 over the life of your subscription, good for you.

If you signed up for YouTube Red back in 2015, you paid $9.99/month, and you have an unlimited subscription in Google Play Music, YouTube Red, and premium service in YouTube Music.

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This meant that while there may be some surface confusion about which subscription to get, the bottom line was dead simple: you buy one, you get them all.

Enter YouTube Music Premium

With the new YouTube Premium models, YouTube is splitting up if benefits. Now, you can:

  • Pay $9.99/month for YouTube Music Premium to get rid of ads and enable background/offline playback in YouTube Music. (This includes the audio-only mode and the ability to cast to Chromecast Audio devices like Google Home.)
  • Pay $11.99/month for YouTube Premium to get rid of ads and enable background/offline playback in YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, YouTube VR, premium features in Google Play Music, AND access to YouTube Originals content.

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YouTube Music premium is 83% the price of YouTube Premium with less than 20% of the benefits. While it matches the subscription prices for Spotify Premium and Apple Music, no one in their right mind should pay for YouTube Music Premium. You will be dramatically overpaying for your benefits. Pay for YouTube Premium instead.

Price hikes are a part of any long-term service. Netflix has raised prices; Amazon Prime has raised prices, and Hulu has used subscription add-ons for channels, No Commercials, and Live TV to stave off doing the same. Even with a $2 price hike, YouTube Premium is still a great value, eliminating ads and giving us background and offline capabilities for the most popular video platform in the world on just about every platform you could watch YouTube on.

Sign up for YouTube Premium ($11.99/month individual, $17.99/month family)

Updated June 2018: YouTube Red is dead. Long live YouTube Premium. We’ve replaced the links for the new service and updating the pricing and features available. You should’ve got Red when you had the chance!

21
Jun

Amazon Cloud Cam vs. Nest Cam IQ: Is Nest’s best worth three times as much?


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AI features are great, but a low price can be even better.

It seems like every brand is trying its hand at the connected security camera game these days, from longtime accessory brands like Belkin and Logitech to more smart home-focused companies like Nest, and now even Amazon. The new Amazon Cloud Cam offers many of the same features you’ll find on industry-leading smart cameras, all at a much more affordable price.

At just $119.99, the Amazon Cloud Cam costs less than half the price of the popular Nest Cam IQ, which runs a pricey $299. In fact, Amazon bundles the cameras together at a discount, meaning you can grab three Cloud Cams for only $289.97. So why on Earth would you buy the Nest Cam IQ when you can literally order three of Amazon’s cameras for less money?

What the Amazon Cloud Cam does great

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Don’t let the cheap price fool you, the Cloud Cam is a very capable security camera. It records 1080p video, day or night thanks to its built-in night vision, and features two-way audio so that you can remotely talk to any guests or unwanted intruders. With a free account, you can review the last 24 hours of activity from the camera — it doesn’t record continuously, but it’ll record clips any time it detects motion within its wide-angle view.

$120 is a steal for any smart security camera, let alone one this powerful.

With a paid subscription, you can get access to up to 30 days of video history, as well as person detection; in other words, the Cloud Cam is smart enough to be able to differentiate a person from, say, a dog or cat, and will only notify you of the former. If the Cloud Cam covers more ground than you care to see, though, you can also set up Zones so that you’re only alerted of motion within specific regions.

Even though the Cloud Cam doesn’t continuously record, you can still access the live feed at any time through the Cloud Cam app. Of course, being an Amazon product, the Cloud Cam integrates with Alexa-powered devices as well. You can use Alexa to display your live feed directly on your Fire TV, Fire Tablet, Echo Show, or Echo Spot.

If there’s one downside, it’s that the Amazon Cloud Cam is only available in the U.S. right now, whereas the Nest Cam IQ is sold in many countries, including the U.S.

See at Amazon

What the Nest Cam IQ does better

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Just like the Cloud Cam, the Nest Cam IQ offers 1080p video with night vision and two-way audio, but it actually uses a 4K sensor to allow you to losslessly zoom into points of interest within the camera’s field of view. This allows you to retain clarity when punching into a subject, which can be especially helpful when trying to identify the face of an unwanted intruder.

Facial recognition cuts down on the number of false alarm notifications you’ll get.

Speaking of faces, the Cam IQ not only has person detection like the Cloud Cam, but it features facial recognition as well, able to identify specific people and only alert you to the presence of unknown faces. This helps cut down on the number of notifications you’ll get from the Cam IQ, as opposed to the Cloud Cam which notifies you of any person detected — including yourself.

With a paid subscription (which starts out at only $5 a month or $50 per year), you can also access 24/7 continuous video recording and between 5- and 30-day surveillance history. As smart as these connected cameras can be, they can sometimes miss things you might have wanted to see, so a full video stream of the last 24 hours can be useful to have. Like the Cloud Cam, you can also set up Activity Zones to only monitor specific areas within the camera’s view, and the Nest Aware subscription service can even automatically create zones if it detects doors.

The Nest Cam IQ isn’t compatible with Amazon’s Alexa service, but it does work with Google Assistant, allowing you to cast your Cam IQ’s video stream to a Chromecast-enabled device. On the flip side, it also has Google Assistant built in, allowing you to use the Cam IQ as a sort of Google Home through its included speaker.

See at Nest

Which is better for you?

I’ve owned and used the Nest Cam IQ in the past, and I absolutely loved its AI-based features, particularly the facial recognition to cut down on notifications. I also like the 4K sensor for lossless zooming, and that the Cam IQ integrates with Google Assistant, which is my assistant service of choice. By all means, the Nest Cam IQ is a more capable, higher quality security camera than the Amazon Cloud Cam in just about every way.

But is it really so much better that you should spend three times the price on one? For the vast majority of people, I’d say no. The main idea behind connected cameras is security, and in that respect, no amount of AI features can beat out simply having more cameras and covering more ground. Even for those who are deeply entrenched in Nest’s ecosystem of thermostats, doorbells, smoke alarms, and home security systems, you’re probably better off just downloading one more app and picking up a few Cloud Cams — even if you only need one, you’ll save nearly $200 by going with Amazon’s offering.

See at Amazon

20
Jun

Japanese Entrepreneur Sues Apple Over Key Flicks and 3D Touch on iPhones and iPads


Toshiyasu Abe, a resident of Vancouver, Washington, has filed a lawsuit against Apple in Oregon district court this week, accusing the company of infringing upon his patent with Key Flicks and 3D Touch on select iPhone and iPad models.

The patent in question is No. 6,520,699, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in February 2003.

Mr. Abe has been an entrepreneur and inventor for nearly his entire life. In the early 2000s, Mr. Abe dedicated substantial time and resources into developing, promoting, and protecting the then-novel user interface device claimed in United States Patent No. 6,520,699, titled “KEYBOARD.”

Like most patents, the description and claims for this one are very long and exhaustive, but from a high level, it at one point refers to a “user interface device” comprising “a plurality of buttons displayed on a touch sensitive screen,” with “each button being associated with a plurality of characters or functions.”

Here’s how the patent is described in the complaint, obtained by MacRumors:

The ‘699 patent covers at least a touchscreen device having a plurality of buttons displayed on the screen, each button being associated with a plurality of characters or functions. When a user touches or taps on a button, the device will respond by displaying a plurality of characters or functions associated with that button. The device can also detect an applied force and direction of motion, which enables a user to simply flick or swipe their finger toward the desired character or function to thereby select that character or function.

There are several other embodiments of the invention, including physical thumb control pads on a mobile phone, notebook, or steering wheel in a vehicle, each with a multitude of pressure-sensitive, geometrically-shaped keys.

Various embodiments of the patent
The touchscreen embodiment does sound similar to how accented characters are managed on the iPhone keyboard. When a user taps on the E key, for example, a menu appears with diacritics such as È, É, Ê, and Ë. The user then slides their finger over the desired character and releases to input it in a text field.

Abe believes Apple’s infringement extends to the Flick Keyboard, introduced in iOS 11 for select iPad models. When enabled, the feature allows an iPad user to simply tap and swipe down on a key to input a number or symbol. If a user taps and swipes down on the D key, for example, a $ symbol is inputted.

The complaint alleges that 3D Touch also infringes upon his patent, given its pressure-sensitive, multifunction attributes.

Apple is also said to be further inducing infringement by aiding and abetting the development of third-party iPhone keyboards and apps that implement flick-style keys and 3D Touch, available through the App Store.

Third-party Japanese keyboard for iPhone
The accused products include at least the following iPad and iPhone models sold in the United States: iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4, 9.7-inch iPad, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

The complaint alleges that Apple has known of Abe’s patent since at least as early as 2009, when he first gave written notice of its infringement. The plaintiff allegedly exchanged a number of emails with Apple, and engaged in at least one phone call with the company’s in-house counsel, but no agreement was reached.

Then, in 2017, the complaint alleges that Abe discovered an increase in Apple’s infringing activities relating to the release of iOS 11, prompting him to send Apple another patent infringement notification letter last December. Apple and Abe communicated again, through counsel, but nothing transpired from the talks.

Abe is seeking damages adequate to compensate him for Apple’s alleged infringement of his patent, in an amount to be proven at trial, but no less than a reasonable royalty. The court still has to agree to hear the case.

Tags: lawsuit, 3D Touch
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20
Jun

White House Reportedly Interested in Developing ‘Counter-Weight’ to Europe’s GDPR Privacy Laws


Last month, Europe implemented its General Data Protection Regulation in an effort to protect the data of all individuals within the European Union, with some aspects affecting users worldwide. According to a new report by Axios, the White House is “in the early stages” of figuring out what a federal approach to online data privacy would look like in the United States.

So far, special assistant to President Trump on tech, telecom, and cyber policy Gail Slater has met with industry groups about the issue. Discussions include possible “guardrails” for the use of personal data online, according to a few sources familiar with the talks. Furthermore, Slater has talked about the implementation of GDPR with Dean Garfield, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents tech companies like Apple and Google.

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Slater and the Trump administration have reportedly referred to the U.S. proposal as a “counter-weight to GDPR,” aimed at ensuring that the European law doesn’t become the global standard of online privacy, sources said. Still, Slater also stated that there is no desire to create a “U.S. clone” of the European rules.

Axios theorized that one possible outcome from the conversations could be an executive order that leads to the development of a privacy framework for U.S. citizens.

One option is an executive order directing one or more agencies to develop a privacy framework. That could direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an arm of the Commerce Department, to work with industry and other experts to come up with guidelines, according to two sources.

An executive order could also kick off a public-private partnership to lay out voluntary privacy best practices, which could become de-facto standards, according to sources.

News about the potential new privacy practices comes as “pressure” is being placed on lawmakers in the U.S., following high-profile data breaches like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. Beginning with reports in March, it was discovered that Facebook was connected with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which itself was tied to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Using a survey app called “This Is Your Digital Life,” the firm secretly amassed data from millions of Facebook users that targeted and attempted to sway votes in the election.

Slater claimed that “giving consumers more control over their data” and “more access to their data” are high marks of the GDPR, suggesting these aspects would be emphasized in the U.S. law.

“We’re talking through what, if anything, the administration could and should be doing” on privacy, Slater said at a conference hosted last month by the National Venture Capital Association

In the wake of GDPR, Apple itself launched a new Data & Privacy website that lets users download all of the data associated with their Apple ID. While the feature was limited to Apple accounts registered in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland at launch, Apple said it will roll out the service worldwide “in the coming months.”

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: privacy, United States
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20
Jun

Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 59 With Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0


Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced over two years ago in March of 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into future release versions of Safari.

Today’s Safari Technology Preview 59 update includes support for Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0, which Apple announced on stage at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The feature prevents social widgets from tracking you without your permission and introduces other tracking prevention updates.

Apple says there are several known issues with the new release on macOS Mojave.

Text does not render properly in the Smart Search Field when in Dark Mode, and customers who are running the update on macOS Mojave beta 2 will need to login to websites when restarting the application or could be required to log in again on some websites when launching a new window.

Safari Technology Preview release 59 also includes bug fixes and feature improvements for Web Animations, Payment Request, JavaScript, Editing, Storage Access API, Security, Service Workers, Compatibility, WebRTC, Web API, Media, Web Inspector, Accessibility, and iCloud Keychain Password Manager.

The new Safari Technology Preview update is available for both macOS High Sierra and macOS Mojave, the newest version of the Mac operating system that’s currently being beta tested by developers.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in macOS to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple’s aim with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while designed for developers, it does not require a developer account to download.
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20
Jun

Microsoft Launches Rebranded ‘Microsoft News’ App for iOS With Dark Mode and More


Microsoft today announced a rebranding of its news engine that’s been powering sites like MSN.com since 1995, which the company is simply calling “Microsoft News.” The name will replace the previous “MSN News” smartphone app beginning today across devices for iOS, Android, Microsoft Edge, Windows 10, Skype, Xbox, and Outlook.com (MSN.com will retain its name).

The revamped app curates news via publishing partners, human editors, and artificial intelligence, ensuring readers are up-to-date on the topics they care about. News sites include over 3,000 brands in all major global markets, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC News, and more, all including text and video content.

Users can personalize the app by prioritizing favorite news topics and selecting interests to follow in the news feed. Microsoft says that publishing partners can connect with their audiences and earn money for the content that users read within Microsoft News.

In terms of UI features, the iOS app includes a dark theme, supports the iOS widgets feature, has customizable breaking news alerts, and more:

– New personalization upgrades, including the ability to tailor interests to follow in your news feed – such as World News, Personal Finance, Fitness and many more – and to roam interests across devices and local news options for top cities
– Simplified access through seamless integration with iOS and Android widgets
– Continuous reading, for a smooth content experience

Microsoft News comes one month after Google revamped its own Google News app on iOS devices, with a few similar features like personalized news suggestions, combined AI/human curation, and more. Google News replaced the existing Google Play Newsstand app, much like Microsoft News is replacing the MSN News app.

Both apps are competitors to Apple News, which provides similar news curation features across a user’s iOS devices. In iOS 12 this fall, Apple News will gain a redesign that introduces a Browse tab to make it easier to discover new channels or jump straight to favorites, and the app on iPad will be updated with a new sidebar for simpler navigation.

Tag: Microsoft
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20
Jun

Apple to Develop Kids Programming in Partnership With Sesame Workshop


Apple is partnering up with Sesame Workshop to create a range of programming for children, reports Variety. The partnership was established by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who have been heading up Apple’s video efforts.

Sesame Workshop is a non-profit organization that develops educational children’s programs such as “Sesame Street,” a popular, well-known, long-running program for kids.

According to the terms of the deal, Sesame Workshop will develop live-action and animated series, along with an Apple-exclusive puppet series. Content created for Apple will be original and will not include “Sesame Street,” which airs on PBS and HBO.


Apple has already signed deals for more than a dozen original television programs, but thus far, the series it is producing have not included content for children.

Apple is, however, rumored to be pursuing a deal with Cartoon Saloon, which has previously produced animated films aimed at both children and adults, including “The Secret of Kells,” “The Song of the Sea,” and “The Breadwinner.”

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12Tag: Apple’s Hollywood ambitionsBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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20
Jun

How to spot fake reviews on Amazon


Amazon is the place to get just about anything, from a Unicorn Mask to a cardboard cutout of Buddy the Elf. But behind every amazing product is a fake review (or 20), either to deter you from buying something or trick you into bupurchasing less-than-stellar products.

Sometimes they are easy to spot — and humorous, too — but what about the ones that seem legitimate or are just on the cusp of being true? How do you spot them, and what are you supposed to look for? Below, we’ve listed a number of websites and a couple tips to help you decipher Amazon reviews like a pro.

Helpful websites

Fakespot

Fakespot offers a new way of filtering product reviews, allowing you to find what actual people are saying about the products. The proprietary technology analyzes millions of reviews and finds suspicious patterns and discrepancies. It will then take out the reviews that seem too good to be true, so you can make an unbiased, reliable purchase.

All you need is the URL of the product in question, which you copy and paste into the site. Fakespot will then scan and analyze information from both the review itself and the person who created the review. Fakespot will then give it a grade ranging from A to F; an A means that 90 to 100 percent of the reviews and reviewers are reliable, and F means only 44 percent (or less) of the information is reliable. It will also give you a company grade, which takes the average of all product reviews.

When analyzing product reviews, Fakespot takes a look at certain “credentials” from the reviewer and the review itself. From the reviewer, it looks to see if it’s a verified purchase, and if the dates and content correlate. It also takes into account frequency and purchase dates, as well as various purchasing patterns. On the review front, it analyzes the writing style, grammar, and spelling correlation, and looks to see whether the dates and content correlate.

We recently decided to put the site to the test using our comprehensive guide to the best headphones. Our No. 1 pick are the Sony WH-100xM2, which are currently available for $348 on Amazon. When we pasted the URL into Fakespot, the results were not surprising.

The headphones were awarded an A, meaning that more than 90 percent of the reviews were of high quality. Fakespot also provided an analysis overview, detailing what they found and other facts that might be of interest to the buyer.

ReviewMeta

ReviewMeta functions much like Fakespot. All you need to do is paste the URL of the product in question, and the site will analyze the reviews and search for unnatural patterns, awarding the product with a pass, warn, or fail. Do keep in mind, however, that a low grade does not mean it’s a fake product, just that their algorithm detects some unnatural patterns throughout the product reviews.

ReviewMeta also provides some additional information, like how many of the reviews were unverified purchases, and how the word count of a review can affect its validity. This provides a more all-encompassing overview of the reviews and gives you some insight into whether you can trust them or not. To see how ReviewMeta compares with the aforementioned Fakespot, we once again entered the URL for our favorite pair of headphones — aka, the Sony WH-100xM2 — into the website.

Surprisingly, ReviewMeta gave us different results. The website flagged more than 200 reviews as suspicious and adjusted accordingly. The product only dropped 0.1 of a star as a result, however, so it’s safe to assume the headphones will still live up to the rest of the reviews. Both websites are good for a basic overview, but neither are 100-percent reliable. Use your discretion, and when in doubt, side with common sense.

Additional hints

Each of the aforementioned websites is a good resource for quickly discerning the quality of Amazon reviews, but there are some additional things you’ll want to keep in mind when looking at the reviews themselves.

Keep an eye on the language

If it reads like an infomercial, then there is a high probability that it’s fake. If the review looks at all unnatural — if it’s in all caps or the punctuation is simply off, for instance — you may want to be wary of the review.

Check for a website

If the manufacturer of the product you’re looking at doesn’t have a website, then you should be skeptical. Warranty claims are far harder to redeem when Amazon is your only point of contact.

Be wary of similar images

If most reviews contain a similar set of photos or appear staged, that should also be a red flag. In this case, the company behind the product may have asked reviewers to shoot it in a way that highlights a particular facet of the product.

Note the reviewer

If they’ve only written one review, or if they’ve written a bunch over a relatively short period of time, that’s cause for concern. Reviews that are short and formulaic can also be fake.

Pause on the Vine reviews

You may have seen the phrase “Vine Voice“ or “Amazon Vine Review” next to names on Amazon, which indicates that these reviewers are part of the invitation-only Vine Program. These reviewers often get access to products before they’ve been released, for free or at a substantial discount, for the purpose of writing reviews on them.

There are potential issues with this, however. Some reviewers may be less critical of products they receive for free, for instance, while others may be less likely to circle back and provide insight into how a product holds up in the long term. Then there’s the whole issue of those with zero knowledge of a particular product segment leaving a review. After all, someone who’s never spent time with a quality pair of headphones may not know what a particular pair of cans are missing.

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